Thursday, 17 February 2011 21:40
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Critics give high marks to Neeson, but are divided on neo-Hitchcockian thriller.
By Shawn Adler
With apologies to the groundhog, Liam Neeson is quickly becoming February's biggest star. Two years after the action-thriller "Taken" made him perhaps Hollywood's unlikeliest action star, the Oscar-nominated man who played Oskar Schindler is back to kick butt and take names in "Unknown," a neo-Hitchcockian thriller about a man who awakens after a car accident to discover the life he thought he had has been taken away, possibly just an after-effect of amnesia.
Is the movie itself worth forgetting? Here's what the critics are saying:
"As much as 'Unknown' tries to be an intelligent thriller for grown-ups, the premise is pretty silly and normally, when that's the case, you know it's going to lead to an equally silly twist. Dark Castle regular Jaume Collet-Serra's previous movie 'Orphan' had one of the funniest twist endings possibly ever, though this doesn't quite achieve that extreme of insanity because the plot is so based in thriller clichés we've seen before, there aren't as many surprises until that third act. We won't give away the big twist, though we'll say that the film's biggest problem is that once it's revealed, much of what happens in the film's third act negates what happened earlier by turning much of it into nonsensical drivel." — Edward Douglas, Coming Soon
Will the Real Mr. Neeson Please Stand Up?
"With Harrison Ford mellowing with the years, Liam Neeson is stepping into the position, near and dear to action fans, of the average, over-civilized American man who, finding himself surrounded by trouble, picks up a tire iron and learns to swing it. It's one thing to convince an audience you're tough when you're covered with muscles. But to do so while wearing a jacket and tie takes concentration and sincerity. Neeson brings his own special quality to this type of role. As we saw in 'Taken,' in which he had to rescue his daughter in Paris, and now in 'Unknown,' playing a scholar whose identity gets stolen in Berlin, Neeson has a way of getting upset — a frantic purposefulness — that fills viewers with both empathy and anticipation: He's so miserable that we care." Mick LaSalle, San Francisco Chronicle
"Casting is crucial to a movie. The right lead changes every other aspect of the film, impacting the tone and the way scenes play. The wrong lead will suck the energy out of a movie, leaving what could have been a delight leaden and dull. Liam Neeson is the wrong lead for 'Unknown.' What's worse, he doesn't seem to care; bringing one boring level of gruff intensity to every scene, Neeson is unmodulated and uninterested in creating anything subtle. Which sounds weird when talking about a big, ultimately dumb movie like 'Unknown,' but if Jaume Collet-Serra's last film, the incredible 'The Orphan,' proves one thing it's that his special brand of lunacy needs strong, subtle actors to play it." — Devin Faraci, Badass Digest
The Supporting Players
"The venerable German actor Bruno Ganz plays a former Stasi agent whom Martin hires to help him prove his identity, and Frank Langella has a brief and marvelous small part as an American professor whom Martin contacts for help. The one scene that Ganz and Langella have together is worth the price of admission. Both are actors capable of elevating whatever material they're in, and for a few moments this fair-to-middling spy drama feels as emotionally rich and morally ambiguous as a Graham Greene novel." — Dana Stevens, Slate
The Final Word
"This is a studio thriller released in February, people, not the second coming of Hitchcock. Still, keep your expectations reasonable and director Jaume Collet-Serra — undaunted by the presence of the 2005 'House of Wax' remake on his résumé — will exceed them, delivering an exciting and unjaded entertainment with tremendous atmosphere, one that will keep you guessing almost to the final frame." — Andrew O'Hehir, Salon
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Critics give high marks to Neeson, but are divided on neo-Hitchcockian thriller. By Shawn Adler With apologies to the groundhog, Liam Neeson is quickly becoming February's biggest star. Two years...
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